Monday, January 7, 2019

Dial M For Murder—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

The Key To A Mystery
This ole-time, murder mystery is by Fredrick Knott and directed by David Sikking.
  It plays at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego, through February 10th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-635-3901.
The semi-classic film of this play was made in the 50’s by Alfred Hitchcock…in 3D, no less.
  And it had an A-list cast with Grace Kelly as the wife, Ray Milland as the husband, Bob Cummings as the writer and John Williams (a frequent supporting actor in many of his TV shows and movies) as the Inspector.  The film is a lot less talky than the play, as Hitchcock was famous for reducing dialogue to their bare minimum, being a visual medium.  But plays, for the most part, are a verbal medium, and thus, more of a story-telling format in style.
One unique thing about the plot is that you know almost from the beginning who the villain is, and then it becomes a cat-and-mouse game as to how, or if, he will slip up in some way to reveal himself (much like the old TV series,
Columbo).  The husband, Tony (Jacob Lee Smith), is a tennis pro and has married for money.  His wife, Margot (Clara-Liis Hillier), is having an affair with a screenwriter, Max (Heath Koerschgen), an old boyfriend.  So, Tony, in his tormented/demented sense of retribution, feels justified in doing away with his wife.
He enlists the aid of an ole school chum, Lesgate (Tom Mounsey), into doing the dastardly deed for him, so that he will have an iron-clad alibi on the day of the murder.
  Tony has some incriminating evidence on Lesgate’s past and present history and, coupled with a thousand-pound incentive, Lesgate agrees.  But the plot does not go as planned.  Someone does end up dead but not the wife and so the police are called in.   It is then up to the Inspector (Don Alder) and his trusty aide, Thompson (Marcus Storey), to unlock the door to the mystery and expose the husband, in a plot that wryly goes…awry.  I can’t tell you more or it would ruin the discoveries made.
The set by John Gerth, an amazing designer in all he does, again gives us a stunningly visual playground, complete with eerie backlighting (Jeff Forbes), and a wide expanse to play this game of death and deceit.
    And Sikking has a delicious cast and uses them and the space to its suspenseful conclusion.
Overall, the cast here is, I believe, more authentic than the film cast, as they portray the characters, not a glorified image of a person, which I think is crucial in a mystery, especially a somewhat plodding script, like this one.
  Hillier is always good at everything I’ve seen her in and equals that here, too.  Koerschgen, also always worth watching onstage, is compelling here, too.  Mounsey, also a familiar actor of the boards, is just fine as the oily sneak, who actually gets what he deserves.  Smith is a treasure, as the smarmy operator of this well-greased machine, and it’s maliciously fun to see him ooze himself about the stage. And Alder is great as the Inspector, who’s trained eye and instinct, notices things not obvious to an untrained eye, again, reminding one of a Columbo-type (albeit better dressed) detective.  All in all, a perfect addition to a rainy night/day.
It is interesting to note that Justice in the hands of Christie, Doyle, Serling, Bradbury, et. al. all seem to be fitting to the occasion of the nefarious deeds, unlike the results of crime nowadays.
  In their stories, the “bad guys” rarely get away without some kind of retribution on equal with their acts.  But in real life, people often get away with just a slap on the wrist, or go scot-free of murder or rape, if they feel “their life was in danger,” or that intimate acts may have been consensual, or no witnesses. Holmes and Poirot would have not tolerated such nonsense.  In their world, wrongs must be righted and, like the code of knights of old, “might for right” would prevail and Truth would have been ferreted out.  Not such a world we live in now, is it?!
I recommend this play.
  If you do choose to see it, please tell them that Dennis sent you.

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